• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Opinion: How Andrew Wiggins’ refusal to receive COVID-19 vaccine seriously compromises Warriors

·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

The Golden State Warriors’ playoff chances don’t just hinge on Stephen Curry having another MVP-caliber season, Klay Thompson returning effectively from an Achilles injury and Draymond Green shutting down opponents.

It also hinges on Andrew Wiggins, who has refused to receive the coronavirus vaccine.

"I don't really see myself getting it any time soon, unless I'm forced to somehow," Wiggins said on March 22. "Other than that, I'm good."

Less than a week before training camp starts, now is the time that Wiggins might be forced to do so. Granted, the NBA players union has not required its players to receive the vaccine. But the NBA and its teams have had health officials talk to players about how proven and effective the vaccines are with both mitigating risk with contracting COVID-19 and improving a person’s immune system should a rare breakthrough case happen.

Andrew Wiggins remains unvaccinated against COVID-19, which could impact his availability for the Warriors this season.
Andrew Wiggins remains unvaccinated against COVID-19, which could impact his availability for the Warriors this season.

Still, the NBA’s protocols allow more freedoms for players that are vaccinated than unvaccinated. In the Warriors’ case, they are also subject to the city of San Francisco’s ruling that people have to show proof of being fully vaccinated to attend a large indoor gathering. So Wiggins will not be able to play in any of the Warriors’ games at Chase Center as long as he refused to take the vaccine. As the San Francisco Chronicle first reported, that doesn’t exactly sit well with the Warriors.

It will be hard enough for the Warriors to absorb Thompson likely missing the first chunk of the season while rehabbing his right Achilles tendon that he ruptured last November. Although he is expected to participate in “controlled drills” in training camp, the Warriors have not offered any clarity when he will begin practicing without restrictions, let alone play in a game. It will be hard enough for the Warriors to miss second-year center James Wiseman, whom the Warriors ruled out to participate in full practices for all of training camp after having surgery on a right meniscal tear in mid April.

But now the Warriors might have to stomach missing Wiggins simply because he distrusts the doctors and scientists, despite the vaccine’s overwhelming success rate? Last season, all NBA teams gave players a decent amount of space with making these decisions. They offered public support for any players that wanted to protect their privacy and consult their own doctors before making any decision. They remained mindful that our country’s medical inequities made marginalized communities even more vulnerable. With data showing that case numbers have still risen, mostly because of the unvaccinated, it appears NBA teams won’t be as patient as they were last season.

Most importantly, those decisions affects the health and safety of the entire team. In the Warriors’ case, Wiggins’ current refusal could seriously compromise their standing in a crowded Western Conference that includes a team that has five former All-Stars (Los Angeles Lakers) and an NBA Finals-tested team (Phoenix Suns).

The Warriors viewed Wiggins as the player most able to guard perimeter scorers while Thompson finishes his rehab. The Warriors touted Wiggins as becoming reliable as a secondary scorer to complement Curry’s shooting outbursts. And the Warriors viewed Wiggins as their most tradeable asset considering they remain bullish on building around Curry, Thompson and Green for the remainder of their NBA careers.

The Warriors cannot enjoy any of those benefits at any home games as long as Wiggins refuses to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Instead, their success could hinge on Curry and Green playing at their absolute best every single game, Andre Iguodala still defying Father Time and their two rookies (Jonathan Kuminga, Moses Moody) showing more promise than learning curves.

Perhaps the situation can become more rectified soon.

The Warriors could introduce Wiggins to more health officials. His teammates could persuade him. Or Wiggins could just come to his senses. Given Wiggins would see his pay reduced for every home game he misses, it seems implausible he would be willing to miss up to 41 home games. But why has it gotten to the point that Wiggins could even miss one, even if it’s just an exhibition game?

All of which leaves the Warriors in a precarious position. For a franchise that constructed a dynasty because of both its star power and teamwork, they suddenly have a key player that is not on the same page with everyone else even before the season starts.

Follow USA TODAY NBA writer Mark Medina on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Sign up for USA TODAY's various subscription deals.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Andrew Wiggins' anti-vaccine stance could jeopardize Warriors season